The Eastern Sierra offers one of the most stunning landscapes in California, with towering mountains, fields of wildflowers, and, best of all, natural hot springs! Buckeye Hot Springs is just one of these incredible hot springs, tucked in the Stanislaus National Forest outside of the teeny, yet charming town of Bridgeport. If you want to enjoy the steamy water and epic alpine views for yourself, here’s everything you need to know about Buckeye Hot Springs.
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What are Buckeye Hot Springs?
Buckeye Hot Springs are a series of geothermal hot springs, with incredible views of the nearby Buckeye Creek and the surrounding Sierras. There’s actually four different pools, with varying temperatures of over 100°F, to enjoy here.
From its geothermal source, steamy water spills down the side of a calcium-rich hillside and cascades in a piping hot waterfall, directly into the chilly waters of Buckeye Creek.
Here, hot spring enthusiasts (just like you!) have constructed multiple pools with river rocks, which you can move around or dump cold water into with a bucket that’s left here to make the water in the primitive pools hotter or colder.
I’ve read that there can be up to four pools along the creekside, but when we visited in the summer of 2023, there were only two pools. It’s possible the other pools were submerged in the high creek water (but more on that below!). The geothermally heated water only cascades into the pool closest to the hillside, so any pools that are further down river will get progressively cooler.
There’s also two additional pools on the hillside overlooking Buckeye Creek, often called the upper pools, which you’ll pass on your way down to the creekside. The pool closest to the trail is fairly small, shallow, and only big enough to hold two to three people, while the pool to the right is larger, deeper, and could comfortably fit around six people.
How to Get to Buckeye Hot Springs
As mentioned above, Buckeye Hot Springs are located here in the Stanislaus National Forest, right outside of Bridgeport, California.
There’s two roads that you can take to reach the hot springs.
You can either turn down Buckeye Road directly from Highway 395 (which is one of my all-time favorite scenic drives in the United States, running from Death Valley, through the Alabama Hills and all the way up to Lake Tahoe) and drive 4.5 miles south to the hot springs.
Alternatively, you can drive into the city of Bridgeport and turn south onto Twin Lakes Road. After driving seven miles south along Twin Lakes Road and passing some very cute cow babies and some of the most stunning mountain views I’ve ever seen, you’ll turn right onto Buckeye Road and drive 3.2 miles north to the springs.
In terms of National Forest dirt roads I’ve encountered, Buckeye Road is in pretty good condition. While the road can be a bit bumpy and washboarded in spots, you should be able to drive along it in any passenger car, so long as you drive slowly and the weather cooperates.
Because this road is largely unmaintained, though, weather conditions, like intense rain or snowfall, can make the road challenging to drive—or even impassable—so keep a close eye on the weather and surrounding roads while you’re headed here.
For example, when we visited, the route directly from Highway 395 was closed, due to Buckeye Road being washed out along the way, caused by unusually high rainfall the area had experienced. For what it’s worth, we saw several SUVs still driving to the hot springs from this direction—even when the road was closed—but I wouldn’t recommend doing that!
Along Buckeye Road, you’ll find a dirt parking lot that will fit about ten or so cars with a simple vault toilet if you need to change into your swimsuit.
From the parking area, you’ll take a short, but steep and rocky trail to the hot springs. You’ll find the two upper hot springs at the end of the first switchback of the trail and will reach the creekside ones after about five or so minutes of carefully walking downhill along the well-defined trail.
I’d recommend wearing hiking sandals here to provide additional traction on the slippery rocks—my husband, Justin, and I both have a cult-like love of our Tevas hiking sandals, which offer incredible traction and double as water shoes (here’s the kind I have and here’s the pair Justin has). Score!
When to Visit Buckeye Hot Springs
In my opinion, the best time to visit Buckeye Hot Springs is in the fall, when the weather is crisp and cool, the crowds of summer have died down, and the water level of the creek is relatively low.
In the spring and into the early summer, the water in Buckeye Creek can be very high, due to springtime rain and snowmelt in the nearby Sierras, which makes the creekside hot springs downright cold. We visited in June, after a particularly cold and snowy winter and, to be honest, you basically had to be sitting directly under the hot waterfall to marginally enjoy in the creekside “hot springs”- they were UNCOMFORTABLY cold!
However, I have heard that Buckeye Hot Springs are more popular in the summertime than other hot springs in the Eastern Sierras, in part, because of their location basically inside Buckeye Creek. In the heat of summer, it can feel incredibly refreshing to jump into the creek’s chilly waters!
Just know that you’ll likely be sharing the hot springs with others if you visit during the busy summertime—Bridgeport is just half an hour from the Tioga Pass entrance of Yosemite, one of the very best things to do in Northern California and the eighth most visited park in the beloved U.S. National Park system.
Winter might be perfect here—what could be better than soaking in steamy hot springs when the weather is freezing and there’s literally no one else around? That being said, Buckeye Road may be impassable due to snow and the trail down to the hot springs may be slippery and covered in snow and ice. So, as mentioned above, keep an eye on the road conditions before driving here, especially if you don’t have a four wheel-drive vehicle, and come prepared, such as with microspikes, to help hike down the steep hillside.
Tips for Visiting Buckeye Hot Springs
Get here early or on a weekday.
Buckeye Hot Springs are quite popular, both with locals and with people staying in the nearby established campground or in the dispersed camping, just a few minutes from the hot springs.
So come prepared to kindly and respectfully share the tubs with others and if you want to enjoy them by yourself, I’d suggest coming here during a less popular time of the year, like winter, or, alternatively, super early (like, sunrise early) on a weekday. My husband, Justin, and I came here at 5 AM on both a Friday and Sunday during the summertime to get photos of one of the upper hot springs, but a naked dude beat us into the tub both times!
Which brings me to…
You will encounter nude people.
It’s local custom for hot springs in Mammoth Lakes and the surrounding area, including Buckeye, to be treated as clothing optional. It’s totally fine if you’d prefer to wear a swimsuit, but don’t be surprised if you see some genitalia on other soakers in the area. Remember to be respectful of others and not take photos or videos that they might not want floating around the internet.
Be forewarned—technically, you can still get a ticket for public nudity if you decide to don your birthday suit here. It’s my understanding that law enforcement in Bridgeport doesn’t regularly enforce these restrictions, but better safe than possibly being on a sex offenders list!
Test hot springs before getting in them.
The waters of Buckeye Hot Springs are naturally warmed by geothermal energy—so they obviously don’t have a reliable temperature control that you can adjust for your soaking pleasure.
Accordingly, be careful before plopping down into any of the pools—while the creekside hot springs can be quite chilly when the water level is high, the geothermally-heated waterfall in the creekside hot spring and the first upper pool you’ll encounter along the trail can be SUPER burn-yourself hot.
In terms of temperature, the Goldilocks hot spring here seems to be the second upper hot spring pool (if you’re facing the creek, it will be the pool furthest to the right)- but even in this pool, make sure to carefully dunk a toe or finger in before flopping your whole body down.
Leave no trace.
I wish this went without saying, but, since some people clearly did not get the memo, please leave this beautiful place better than you found it.
Pack out whatever you pack in (including your cigarette butts and beer cans); don’t break glass bottles in the pools for others to cut their feet or bums on; and generally follow the basic “don’t be a jerk” principles you hopefully learned in kindergarten.
Can I camp at Buckeye Hot Springs?
You’re not permitted to camp in the parking lot for Buckeye Hot Springs, but there is either an established campground, Buckeye Campground, just a mile down the road, for $20 per night.
Justin and I actually originally found out about Buckeye Hot Springs through Campendium, one of my favorite RVing apps, because of the incredible (and FREE!) dispersed camping sites all along Buckeye Road in the national forest. We had a stunning dispersed campsite here, overlooking Buckeye Creek, with jaw-dropping views of the nearby Sierras, and just a two minute drive to the hot springs.
Alternatively, there’s free dispersed camping in the Bureau of Land Management land around Travertine Hot Springs, which is also 100% worth visiting while you’re in the Bridgeport area.
If you’re not into camping, there’s also accommodations you can stay at in the cute-as-a-button old time-y town of Bridgeport. Consider:
- Ruby Inn Bridgeport: Located on Bridgeport’s historic Main Street, this charming inn has clean and cozy rooms, friendly staff, and thoughtful extras, like coffee and hot chocolate in the lobby.
- Walker River Lodge: This lodge is located right on the Walker River, with rooms offering decks that provide stunning views of the river or the nearby mountains. It also earns bonus points in my book, thanks to its pet-friendliness and nice amenities, like an outdoor pool and hot tub and communal barbecues.
- Silver Maple Inn: The hotel is located within walking distance to most of Bridgeport’s businesses and has an incredibly kind and helpful staff. There’s a lot to like about this property—some rooms come with mountain-view patios or kitchens, while all guests will be able to enjoy the comfy beds and free bicycle rentals.
I hope you have an awesome time at Buckeye Hot Springs—it’s such a beautiful part of the Eastern Sierra! Do you have any questions about these hot springs? Let me know in the comments below!